able. The committee did not address mechanisms used to determine whether or not information is classified.


Members of the National Interagency Genomics Sciences Coordinating Committee (NIGSCC), which comprises representatives of several federal agencies that have an interest in genome research, had discussed the release to the public domain of genome data as they pertain to likely agents of bioterrorism. Given that complete genomes of more than 100 microbial pathogens—including those for smallpox, anthrax, Ebola hemorrhagic fever, botulism, and plague—are already in Internet-accessible databases freely open to all and that the genomes of hundreds more pathogens will be sequenced with the support of government funds in the next few years (Fraser, 2004), representatives of the member agencies discussed whether current policies regarding release of genome sequence data were appropriate. As a result of the discussions, some NIGSCC members decided to seek advice from the scientific community. The National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Central Intelligence Agency funded the National Academies to convene a committee, to hold a workshop, and to produce a report about how biological scientists view the potential for misuse of genome sequence data and the policies governing access to databases containing these data.

At the first meeting of the Committee on Genomics Databases for Bioterrorism Threat Agents, the sponsors indicated that they hoped the report would present the perspective of working biological scientists, so that readers in the policy and intelligence communities could use the report when considering potential changes in policy regarding access to genome sequence data. It was understood that the security community would then take this scientific perspective and use it in combination with their own knowledge of security issues to make decisions. The sponsors specifically requested that the report capture input from workshop participants’ presentations and discussions, identify general issues surrounding the release to the public domain of genome data for bioterrorism threat agents, develop a list of pros and cons associated with the release to the public domain of such data, and present recommendations for policy options and decision-making frameworks concerning release to the public domain of genome information.1


The full charge to the committee, the statement of task, can be found in Appendix A.

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